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Back to Basics - A Complete Club Strategy

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Page 1; Post #2 - Introduction - Goals - Shout Outs

Page 1; Post #3 - First Steps - Playable Leagues and Advanced Options - Club Choice - Manager Profile

Page 1; Post #4 - The First Day at Your New Club - Initial Meetings

Page 1; Post #4 - Getting Things Organised and Familiarisation - Back Room Staff - Staff Quality - Staff Recruitment Plans - Recruitment

Page 1; Post #5 - Pre-Season - Arranging Friendly Matches - Team Cohesion - Tactical Familiarity - Putting it all Together

Page 1; Post #5 - Finances

Page 1; Post #6 - Meet the Players and Initial Tactical Musings - Where Do I Start? - Methods of Starting Your Tactic

Page 1; Post #7 - Tactical Thinking - My Club - Style of Play - Club DNA - Formation - 4123 DM Wide - 4231 Wide

Page 1; Post #8 - Tactical Settings - Mentality - Applying this to my Club - Team Shape - Team Instructions - My Team Instructions - Player Instructions - Set Pieces

Page 1; Post #9 - Sorting out the Squads - Senior Squad - Under 21s - Under 18s - Youth Development Case Study (Tutoring and Training Plans)

Page 1; Post #10 - In-Season Training

Page 1; Post #44 - Mini Update - Contracts - Recruitment - Scouting Network

Page 1; Post #46 - Adapting - First League Game of the Season

Page 1; Post #55 - Jan 2016 Update, Part 1 - HOYD - Facilities - Tutoring - Joe Powell - Squad Issues - Transfer Targets

Page 1; Post #59 - Jan 2016 Update, Part 2 - Tactical re-think - A Defensive solution - Applying it to West Ham - Thought Process - TIs - Team Shape

Page 1; Post #81 - Jan 2016 Transfers - Selling - Buying - Positions & Secondary DNA

Page 1; Post #91 - Goalkeepers - What I Look For - The Importance of Scout Reports

Page 1; Post #100 - Youth Intake Day - Facilities Explained - Youth Intake

Page 2; Post #136 - Making Informed Decisions - CA and PA - Hidden Attributes - Proper Scouting - Applying This

Page 2; Post #163 - Second Season, July 2016 - Positional DNA - Transfers Out / In - Staff Changes - Joe Powell - Future Tactic

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We see many threads in this forum asking for help. This can be help on all sorts of levels, from complete novices asking basic questions, to more advanced topics.

We also see some excellent threads describing how somebody has gone about creating their tactic or tactical system - a few even describe how that person has created an identity for their club and their squad development.

As this is the Tactics, Training and Strategies forum, I thought I'd write an article that covers the complete end to end process from starting a new save, taking charge of a club and developing that club into a world beater.

This will cover:

- Basic information, tips and tricks;

- Club set up;

- Player training;

- Short term issues;

- Long term plans;

- Tactical development;

- Playing matches;

- Squad development

I also intend to write this "live" as I actually play the game, so that at every stage you'll be able to see my thought process as I go about managing my chosen club.

Clearly this article isn't going to be a quick read. I'll therefore serialise it over a period of time, and include an index in the OP for quick reference navigating.

Goals (pun intended ;))

- Avoid the sack!

- Write something useful for a broad cross section of the community

- Be as descriptive as possible to pass across strategies and thought processes

Shout Outs

Too numerous to mention them all, but without the innumerable contributions from Cleon, Rashidi and RTH I'd still be trying to throw the kitchen sink at the Tactics Creator and wondering why the hell things didn't work.

Guides from wwfan, llama3 and THoG have been of great help, and simply reading contributions from members of this forum all goes a long way.

Thank you all :thup:.

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First Steps

We have to start somewhere, and for me it starts when I hit the "New Career Game" option.

I think this is an often overlooked area with many people (quite rightly) eager to get involved with their new club. But the choices we make here can have quite an impact on how the game plays and the strategies we adopt. Some of the choices you make now can't be changed once you start playing, whilst others can take a very long time to change, so it's important to get things right now.

Much of it is of course down to your personal preferences and there is no right or wrong way of doing things - just the fun way. For the save I'm starting, this is how I'm setting things up:

1. Playable Leagues and Advanced Options


The amount of playable leagues you load will to an extent be governed by both the computing power of your PC and also by the speed at which you like to play. People with less powerful PCs or those who don't want to wait too long for game time to update each time they hit "Continue" will choose a lot less leagues than I load. Nothing wrong with that at all. I personally like to have lots of leagues loaded (with the Database set to "Large") to help with things like the transfer market, player and staff choice. Once in game you can change which leagues to load, but the changes won't come into effect until the end of the season.

You will also notice I've selected the "Game Start Date" to be Germany - 26/6/2015. The club I intend to manage is not a German club, however if I selected the country where the club is, the start date would have been 1/7/2015. By changing this start date, I get an extra few days of pre-season to help with things like player match fitness, tactical familiarity and team cohesion. It may not sound like much, but this is a game where numerous small things can add up to make noticeable differences. Do you have to do this? No of course not, it's personal preference.

And finally comes a few more personal preferences in the Advanced Options section. I like to start saves as the beginning of the real football season started, without making any additional transfers in the first transfer window. As I also have the In-Game Editor installed, I disable it for actual saves I do. Sometimes I play games with Attribute Masking disabled, but I intend to write about Scouting so will leave this enabled. Again, all of this is personal preference based on what you find fun to do.

2. Club Choice

Club choice for me is important. I have to feel a connection to the club I manage, otherwise I'll get bored and the save will die. That connection could be a real life connection, a challenge I set myself, or just a team I've enjoyed watching in the past. It doesn't matter what the connection is, so long as I have one.

I also don't enjoy Lower League Management. That's just me. A friend of mine has completed all sorts of LLM challenges, from San Marino to Iceland via Wales, and the things he achieves is incredible. Inspired by him, I've tried similar things, but it's just not my cup of tea, so to all those people out there who do love this aspect of the game I tip my hat to you. You're all as mad as badgers of course, but I tip my hat :D.

So, the club I have chosen is West Ham United - and not just because I happen to support them. They have a decent enough squad and massive potential to grow as a club, but their finances are in a bit of a mess, their training and youth set up needs an overhaul and there is plenty of scope to develop the team. It's a bit of a challenge and will hopefully make for good reading.

3. Manager Profile

For me, this is a very important aspect to get right as it impacts lots of areas within the game - team talks, player conversations, Board meetings, contracts & transfers and training to name but a few.

Now, just as players and staff members can improve their attributes, so can your manager avatar. However, for me the rate of increase is interminably slow and I don't have the patience for it. That's just me. Many many players set their manager up with very low reputation and attributes, and the development therein is an integral part of their gameplay. Hats off to them, much respect. I just can't do it.

Anyway, based on the club and league I intend to be managing in, I made the following choices and adjustments:


As you can I see, I have chosen a slight favouring towards being a Tactical Manager. I'll run through my choices, which are all geared towards helping me with my coaching staff and team/club interaction:

a) Coaching Attributes

From experience, it can be relatively easy to find Goalkeeping, Fitness and Defending coaches. It can be hard to find decent Ball Control and Shooting coaches especially, so my coaching attributes are skewed towards setting myself up as one or other of this type of coach. To see exactly which attributes are important for every type of coach, check the FAQs sticky at the top of this forum.

I also give myself extra points in Working with Youngsters as (i) your Manager/Coach will be coaching all levels of your clubs' squads, not just the senior squad and (ii) players are classified as "youngsters" until the age of 23, by which time anyone half decent should be fully installed in your senior squad.

b) Mental Attributes

Here, I want to fill out as much as possible in Determination, Man Management, Level of Discipline and Motivating, whilst still having a healthy dose in the other 3 categories. Take another look at that screen shot above to see the in game definitions of Determination, Man Management, Level of Discipline and Motivating - hopefully you can see why I've placed an emphasis here, given all the interaction with people I'll be having in the game.

If you had a look at the FAQs sticky for desired coach attributes, you'll also understand why I want a good showing in Determination, Discipline and Motivation for my own "coach".

In conclusion then , hopefully you can start to see why I spend a little extra time getting the game set up as I do. It's incredibly difficult or slow to change any of these choices once you have actually started a game, so a little patience here can go a long way.

Next I'll discuss how I start to set things up in my new club, from checking out my staff to organising my pre-season. And then there is the small matter of my players and their tactics.

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The First Day at Your New Club

Initial Meetings

So I've just taken charge at West Ham, and been welcomed by my new Chairman.

Other meetings can now follow, which I suggest you don't skip. You start building relationships right from the get go, so buttering up such people as your Managing Director, Assistant Manager, Back Room staff, players and the Press will only help you in the future. Poor relationships can and will be noted by your Board and, in extreme cases, lead to you being sacked. So press the flesh, grit your teeth and suck it up.

At this point, I'll make a note of how I play the game. There are of course "optimal" ways of doing pretty much everything. Micro-managing this, min/maxing that, to squeeze every last drop out to help you "win". Lots of people do that, I used to, and jolly good luck to them.

I've now changed a little. Sure, I still get involved in some "optimal" techniques, but I now play the game with a little "role playing" element. I've found this adds a new dimension and increases the fun. What I've stopped trying to do is "beating the game". There is no "beating the game" in the traditional sense of computer games, which I think many people don't always understand at first.

Now, when I say "role play" I'm not by any means walking around pretending to be Slaven Bilic or anything daft like that, but I will accept a few less than optimal strategies or oddities that the game will inevitably throw my way.

At certain points, the game will tell us something we just don't agree with (the forums are full of people complaining about this), but for me now I just accept what I've been told, think the "person" telling me this is barking and I deal with the situation. If that results in my star player throwing a strop and our relationship breaking down, so be it. I'll sell the little princess and bring someone else in. It happens, so just play it out.

So, I've met Karren Brady, told my Assistant Manager to not bother me again for the next 3 months, ignored my Back Room staffs' recommendations (I'm in charge, they literally have no idea what I want) and agreed to meet the press. What next? Well, plenty...

Getting Things Organised and Familiarisation

I'm newly arrived and know nothing about the club. I don't know the players, the staff, the training facilities, nothing. I need to start work and understand what are good things, what needs changing immediately and what I can leave for a later date. I'm going to start with my Staff.

Back Room Staff

My first port of call is the Board screen, to see how many staff I actually have. And on the face of it it's ok:


Now, I don't know the quality of my staff yet, but at least I have something to work with. I'll assess them soon and determine my needs. From this initial look: I'm glad I don't have a Director of Football (a complete waste of money as far as I am concerned); my U18s coaches look a bit thin on the ground; and my scouting network is practically non-existent. Once I check my Training screens to assess the quality of coaches I'll consider changes, but this gives me a starting point. My U18s and U21s are also missing an Assistant Manager, but that's really just an extra coach over and above my allowance, so it's probably something more for the future.

A quick word on the DoF - I never use them simply because I like to take control of most aspects of the club. So to me they are just an expensive and unnecessary overhead. However, if you like to relinquish some aspects of control, then employ a DoF.

Now that I have checked number, I need to check responsibilities. I like to control pretty much everything, because quite simply I know what I want to do and the AI doesn't. The AI has it's own thoughts about what to do. There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with letting the AI control many aspects if that's how you have fun playing. Let the AI take charge of Training (for example) and you will have a team full of fit players, who will develop ok. For me however, "ok" isn't enough and I know I can do better ;).

So, I head into Staff > Responsibilities and change everything except the following options to be controlled by me:


I'm quite happy for my HOYD to make offers on young players, so long as I have final say over whether to sign them or not. Everything else I will do for now, at least until I have a much healthier scouting network.

I also want my Youth Team Managers making friendlies to make sure my young players have plenty of game time and to save me the bother of arranging them. These Managers are perfectly capable of doing this, but I do want my Youth teams to play with my senior squad tactics. This will help me develop players how I want them to develop and so fit into my chosen tactical system.

Staff Quality

1) Coaches

If you take a look at the FAQs sticky at the top of this forum, optimal attributes are described there for each coach and their area of expertise. So I could simply look at each coach to assess their suitability.

However, before I get into that, I'm going to take an initial look at my coach star ratings. Star ratings are a visual representation of those attributes, so it's a quick method of checking things out. These are my senior and U18s coach ratings:

Senior Squad coaches


U18s coaches:


All in all, not too bad. My Senior Squad has at least 4 star coaches in every area apart from Ball Control and Attacking, and my U18s have a similar issue.

Note that I'm not mentioning my U21s squad. This is because my U21s share training facilities with my senior squad, so whatever I do with my seniors will affect my U21s as well. Some countries and leagues differ and their 2 youth teams share facilities instead, so always take note of who is training with who.

You'll also notice that some of my senior coaches have a "Heavy" workload. This is something I'll need to fix pretty quickly otherwise players will start complaining they aren't getting enough one-on-one training. More on that later.

For a team such as West Ham, I should really be looking for a minimum of 4 star coaches across the board. If I was trying to optimise things, I'd be looking to do this asap. However, I'm actually going to RP this a bit for now. I've started the game with no transfers allowed in the first window, so I'll do the same with my coaches.

Also I don't have much in the way of really decent prospects in my youth teams (I had a quick look, more on that later), so bringing in replacement coaches right at the start is not on my list of priorities. Further, given my lack of scouting knowledge and club reputation, my choice of decent available coaches is somewhat limited. So I decide to leave things as they are for now, and revisit this either around January or at the end of the season.

I may however bring in one or two additions to help with the Heavy workload, but again more on that later.

In terms of a pressing recruitment need, my only real concern is my Head of Youth Development. Not only do I want him to be a decent coach, but his personality can directly influence the personality of newgen players. This is West Ham's HOYD, and his Balanced personality is just not good enough:


I want somebody with high levels of Professionalism, as Professionalism has a direct impact on how well players train and develop. Youth Recruitment day isn't for a few months yet, but I'm afraid Terry's days are numbered. We are supposed to be the "Academy of Football" after all.

I'll also mention here a point where I won't be looking to optimise something and rather rely on an RP element for my own fun, and that's my U21s Manager, Steve Potts. I used to love watching Pottsy play for West Ham, so I'm going to be a bit sentimental here and keep him as my U21s Manager no matter what. He's not the best choice for an U21s Manager I've seen (although by no means the worst either), and I like having him around the place. Go on Pottsy, get stuck in :).


2) Medical Team

From the staff list pictured above, I have one Head Physio and two senior squad Physios (who will also help out with the youth teams).

The "Physiotherapy" attribute is really the only thing I am interested in here. Other attributes may or may not help a little, but Physiotherapy is the key element and I ignore all others - it just over complicates things.

A quick look at all 3 of my Physios show they all have at least 15 for Physiotherapy (two have 16) which is fine for now. Anything lower than 15 and I'd look to replace them.

Ultimately I want one physio for each of my youth squads as well, and that's something I may sort out sooner rather than later. Having a Youth Physio is also a requirement for your annual Youth facilities review, so something else to bear in mind.

3) Scouting Team

To use a little cockney, this is absolute pony. Just 2 scouts, and West Ham are rated worst in the division for judging potential and second worst for judging current ability.

My Chief Scout (Tony Henry) is actually quite good, with 16 for judging both potential and current ability. My only other scout (George Cowie) rates at only 10 for judging potential and 9 for current ability. As previously stated, pony.

I have scope for recruiting a further 7 scouts, which I'll need to get working on. When recruiting scouts, I only look at 3 key factors: their ability to judge potential, judge current ability and their nation of origin. Nothing else matters to me, although adaptability can help scouts decide which country to scout and how much time to spend there. I like a variety of nationalities for my scouts as this gives a built in knowledge of countries, so aiding my player searches.

I also intend to use scouts (and other staff) to broaden my knowledge of the world, to help me find more and better staff. Having staff with knowledge of different countries can help lift the fog and show additional staffing options, so sometimes I'm quite happy to employ a lower quality staff member if it means I get even more choice. These types of staff members I tend to keep on short term contracts, as they are pretty useless after all.

Staff Recruitment Plans

My immediate needs are:

- A Senior Squad coach to help with the Heavy Training Workload;

- Some new scouts from a variety of countries.

My medium term needs are:

- A new HOYD (needs to be in place before youth intake day, sometime in March for England);

- An U18s Physio;

- A new U18s Manager (see below).

My long term needs are:

- Gradual replacement of most coaches (4 star coaches are fine for now, but I want better);

- A new Assistant Manager (see below);

- Better Physios;

- Youth Team Assistant Managers.

Breaking things down like this makes things a bit more manageable, plus if I spread things out it'll give me more to do at a later point. I should also have a broader choice of new staff later in the game as I increase my club's standing and improve my world knowledge.

Assistant Manager

My current Assistant Manager, Nikola Jurcevic:


Pretty terrible in all honesty. Lots of people use their Assistant for many purposes, from organising Training to handling Press Conferences and even taking charge of matches. I keep mine much more simple: he needs to be a good coach in one or more categories; and he needs decent judging of potential and current ability so that he can keep me properly updated with player development.

Jurcevic has neither of these, but what he does have is a big fat £10k a week for the next 3 years, so he'll cost a fortune to get rid of. I'll keep him for the first season, but replace him after that.

U18s Manager

My current U18s Manager, Mark Phillips:


Again, not up to standard. Not only do I need my Youth Team Managers to be decent coaches, they should also score well for judging potential and current ability; Working with Youngsters; and a good personality.

Mark has none of these and will be replaced, possibly before the end of the season depending on who is available. At just £1k a week for 2 years, he's fairly cheap to get rid of too.


1) Senior Squad Coach

From the images above, I have choices here:

- I could "game" the system and just bring in any old low quality coach, assigning him to all training categories that have a Heavy workload. This would reduce the workload, is cheap and wouldn't affect player development as the main coach for each category is still assigned.

- I could bring in a better Attacking coach than I already have and then use my existing coach to cover all Heavy workload categories.

- I could bring in a better Ball Control coach than I already have and then use my existing coach to cover all Heavy workload categories.

Decent Ball Control coaches can be hard to find, and with a little RP I decide not to bring in a rubbish coach just to save my workloads (I'm West Ham, I don't want to employ rubbish). So I decide to find a new Attacking coach.

Setting at a level of 15 in Attack coaching, Determination, Discipline and Motivation, my search only brings up one hit, who is the HOYD at RB Leipzig (handy to know when I look for a new HOYD). So I reduce my criteria by one and get a few more hits:


I decide to go after Jimmy Lumsden. He's 67, so it probably won't be long until he retires, but he'll be a decent stop gap until someone better turns up. He wants £3k a week for a two year contract, I beat him down to £2.2k a week (good use of my Manager profile set up):


2) Scouts

As mentioned above, I want a broad selection of nationalities to start off improving my global knowledge. In particular I want to cover much of South America and Europe, ultimately branching out into Africa and Asia.

I start with South America and get just one hit:


With his reputation he's not going to be cheap and sure enough he wants £3.9k a week for a 3 year deal. He has decent attributes for a scout (13 JCA and 17 JPA), so I'm going to offer him a long term deal. He eventually agrees to sign for £2.9k a week for 4 years.

I continue the search until I have secured the services of 2 Central European scouts; a Southern European scout; a UK & Irish scout; and an African scout. All have decent attributes, all currently unemployed (so no compensation to pay) and all pretty cheap (except Angel Vales who will cost me £3k a week):


That fills up 6 of my available 7 scout positions, which is fine for now.

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Pre-Season is purely about the following:

- Team Cohesion

- Match Fitness

- Player Morale

- Tactical Familiarity

The first of those is sorted by a specific General Training setting. The next 2 are done through (usually) playing Friendly matches (West Ham in season one are slightly different due to early Europa League qualifying rounds). Tactical Familiarity also requires a specific General Training setting as well as playing matches.

Arranging Friendly Matches

Ideally you will arrange a Home friendly match every 3 or 4 days, against very low quality opposition. If managing a small club, it can also prove financially attractive to arrange a friendly against a large club, however be careful of the fees these clubs command and your expected income. Sometimes you will actually receive a larger profit by playing a friendly against a slightly smaller club as their fees will be lower but you should still attract a large crowd.

Playing Friendlies is the only way to improve player Match Fitness before competitive matches start. There is a bit of a myth that setting General Training to "Fitness" will also help here. It doesn't. Fitness General Training will attempt to develop your players' physical attributes (eg., stamina, strength, pace and so on) and so has absolutely nothing to do with Match Fitness.

The reason to pick low quality opposition for opponents in Friendlies is so that you are pretty much guaranteed a win. Winning matches improves morale, and happy players with good morale at the start of the season can help get you off to a flier.

Team Cohesion

During Pre-Season, General Training should be set to Team Cohesion. The intensity level should be at least Medium - High if you think your players can handle it. Team Cohesion is important at the start of each season to help players blend together well. New faces from either promoted Youth team players and/or transfers can rapidly destroy cohesion, so it's important to get it back up. Players who are unfamiliar with each other won't perform as well on the pitch.

You can check on your squad cohesion by looking at your Assistant Manager's Team Talk Feedback Report. Here is mine at the start of the season:


Not very good, so I'll set Team Cohesion in General Training and leave it on that until such time as this report improves (generally 4-6 weeks). I'll have to check it periodically.

Tactical Familiarity

Once you have created (or downloaded) tactics, your players need to learn them. Playing with an unfamiliar tactic isn't the worst thing in the world, but it can certainly help kick start your season.

To maximise the speed at which your team becomes familiar with your tactics, you need to set your Match Preparation in your Training screen to Match Tactics. Note that the more tactics you have set up (maximum three), the longer familiarity will take. You also need to maximise the amount of time your team spend at the training ground practising your tactics. This is done using the Scheduling slider at the top centre of the screen to set "More Match Training".

You should also not allow any rest before or after matches, as this will impact on the amount of time your team spend studying their tactics.

Putting it all Together


This is how West Ham's Pre-Season Training and match schedule looks.

You can see:

- Team Cohesion is being worked on;

- Easy Friendly matches have been arranged;

- Match Preparation is set to tactics (although I haven't actually created any tactics yet);

- Scheduling has been increased to maximise time spent preparing Match Tactics.

This also shows why I mentioned way back at the start of this article why I set the season to start with Germany 26/6/2015, instead of England 1/7/2015. If I had left it until 1/7/2015, I'd be missing out on a few days of training and a Friendly match - I'd be launching straight into my first Europa League qualifying match against Lusitans.

Speaking of this, I'm treating these Europa League matches as additional Friendly matches. I really should be winning these games with some ease, so they take the place of some Friendlies. You'll notice that after the Canterbury match there is a gap - assuming I beat Lusitans, the next round of qualifying will appear here. If I fail to beat Lusitans I can simply arrange a Friendly in this place. And then uninstall the game :brock:.


At first glance, West Ham's finances are in a bit of a mess:


Net debt of £105m is a bit eye watering. However, on closer inspection, roughly half of the existing debt will be gone by the end of the season. Add on the new TV deal money that'll take affect soon and it's actually looking fairly rosey.

However, I don't want to go over board with my own spending. I have a Board condition to develop my own youth players, so I want to be able to channel a lot of money into developing my facilities rather than spending huge amounts on transfer fees, agent fees and player wages. For the time being, I'm therefore going to give myself some self-imposed salary caps.

To do that, I need to take a first look at my senior squad:


This is a custom view I've created, which gives me a great general overview of my players. I can see how much they earn, their personality, squad status, home-grown status and so on.

I can immediately see I only have one senior player earning over £100k a week - Alex Song who is on loan from Barcelona - and he's earning double the next best paid player. Pretty ridiculous really, and I may not keep him beyond the January transfer window (assuming I can cancel his loan, which I may not be able to).

Looking at my next best paid players (Payet and Carroll), they earn £70k a week + £10k appearance fee and £10k goal bonus (Payet) / £7k goal bonus (Carroll).

Working out percentages, I'm leaning towards a wage structure of up to £100k a week for a key player + up to 30% in bonuses.

£75k a week for a First Team status; £40k a week for Rotation; £25k a week for back up are nothing more than arbitrary numbers but sound at least plausible to me, and don't seem to rock the boat too much in terms of my existing squad.

We'll see how it goes, but there's my line in the sand for now.

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Meet the Players and Initial Tactical Musings

So far, I've checked out my staff, set up Pre-Season and even dabbled with some Finances. It really is about time I did something with my players.

I'll make a confession here. I'm writing about a new save I'm starting in June 2016, a year ahead of the game's actual start date. The last thing I want to be doing is messing around with player injuries which healed many months ago in real life. That just isn't fun for me at this particular point in time, so I've edited them out. If I had started this save much nearer the game start date then not a problem, everything would be left untouched. But 12 months after the fact? That's just an inconvenience to me now. Obviously any injuries that players pick up from here on in will remain, as that's now part of the game world.

Where Do I Start?

To an extent this is going to depend on your own knowledge of the club. I'm already pretty familiar with West Ham, and I already have some ideas of the direction I want to go in, but what if I didn't have any knowledge? How do I start to familiarise myself with my squad of players? What are the strengths and weaknesses? What type of tactical system should I adopt? How do I tell if my players are even capable of playing in the manner in which I want them to?

That's a lot of questions, and questions not exactly uncommon on these forums either.

And the answers to those questions can be quite varied. The thing to remember is there is no right or wrong answer - just the way in which you feel most comfortable with and adds to your game experience.

So, onto some examples to illustrate the point.

Some people recommend starting with the Team Report screens, comparing how your new club compares with other clubs in your division to help assess your strengths and weaknesses:


(I have no idea how West Ham are first for Finishing btw :p).

Perhaps your midfield are particularly good passers, in which case a possession oriented game may be wise. On the other hand perhaps you have big strong strikers, so a long ball tactic might more up your street. There are all manner of ways in which these reports can be analysed, which many people find very useful as a starting point.

Others will go straight to the Squad screen (or will move onto the squad screen after their initial assessment in the Team Report screens above) and get stuck straight into player attribute analysis. For example, here is the West Ham squads' Technical attributes sorted by Crossing ability:


Any number of attributes can be listed for you to analyse with the ability to sort players by relevant attributes to help you decide whether your team are actually capable of playing in the manner in which you wish. You can also create your own custom lists to show even more information that you may be interested in all in one place.

So for example, if you want to play with Wingers and use them to cross the ball into the box for your strikers to get on the end of, are your wingers actually capable of crossing the ball? These screens can tell you that. From there, you can then start to shape your tactical system and/or your transfer requirements. Following through that example, if you want to play with wingers, but the ones you have can't cross a ball, there's a possible transfer target for you. Alternatively, they may not be able to cross the ball, but perhaps they can dribble, shoot and pass, so an Inside Forward instead could be a good starting point.

Until you are used to looking at such reports, it takes time. If you just go crashing in, giving your players any old role without much thought, don't be surprised if things go awry when you start playing matches.

A third view is to just go straight to the Tactics screen, set your tactic up according to how you want and then try to fit players into it. Just bear in mind that it can help if you have an idea of how you want to play before you go down this road. Sometimes when you see players actually in a formation, it can help you to visualise where you may be weak or strong and lead you to little tweaks and adjustments - or even if your idea of how to play is just a complete non-starter for now and should therefore become your long term plan instead:


Just for demonstration purposes, all I've done here is select a formation and get the AI to fill in the players. Straight away this can give you a very visual idea of how players may be able to fit in, and areas you may need to change. For example, I can easily now click on each player in that formation and, based on my understanding of what the role does, see if the player is suitable. So, is Dmitri Payet (for example) going to be ok as a winger?


Well he's not going to be bad, but with those attributes and PPMs I'd perhaps think about playing him as an Inside Forward or Advanced playmaker - assuming I was going to leave him out on the wing. Alternatively I could move him to a different position if I thought he suited that better instead or, if I like the winger role, replace him with someone more suitable (assuming there is someone).

However, while doing this for each player, you still need to be aware of your other players and their roles. We're starting to stray into actually creating a tactic now, which I'll be covering later, but suffice to say for now that all roles will have an impact on all other roles, so don't ignore everything else you are doing.

Now, if you are really really struggling to start a tactic and really don't know even what formation your players may be capable of playing, then honestly at this point you really should spend a little time getting to know your players. If you still can't and are just confused by the whole thing, there are two other options you can try.

Now, I do not recommend doing this, but I know sometimes people just want a little starting point.

So option 1) - Go to your tactics screen and when you see the following, click on "Skip Tactics Creator":


The game will then pick a formation for you that it thinks is ok based on the players at your disposal. This is what it gave me for West Ham:


Now, some of the roles and duties in there are a bit suspect (I wouldn't use "Auto" duties, and that AF may get a bit isolated), but it's a starting point. Really this is a properly last resort option, but it can help you visually - and sometimes that's the start a few of us need.

The second option you can try involves relying on the game to set things up for you. Go to your Squad screen and from the tabs at the top select Squad Depth > Best XI:


Then simply select a formation from the drop down box highlighted (I've selected 4-2-3-1) and have your Assistant Manager select player roles/duties and the players themselves. And straight away you have another starting point. Now it doesn't select tactical settings for you, and neither can you just switch to your Tactics screen and see this newly created formation appear there, so you'll need to take some notes. But you've now created something that at least makes some sense and gives you a platform to build on.

It'll never replace your own time spent studying your team and getting to know your strengths and weaknesses, but not everyone finds that fun.

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Tactical Thinking - My Club

Well then, West Ham. What to do.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of detailed tactical instructions, I want to consider a framework within which the detail will sit. For this I need to think about the formation with which I want to play and the overall style of football I am looking to achieve.

It can be very very useful to spend a little time thinking about this before launching into the tactic creator. Now ok, in the previous post I mentioned different techniques of finding out your players strengths and weaknesses, or even just letting the game take control. So this can already start leading you down the path of your framework and style.

But I already have an idea about how I want to play. Whether I'll actually be able to play that way or not only time (and playing matches) will tell. So I'm going to set things up, for now, based on what I want to do. If I then find that any of my players are unsuitable for what I want, I'll:

a) make short term tweaks to accommodate those players;

b) develop my tactic and squad over a period of time to recruit players that do suit how I want to play; and

c) experiment in the mean time because you never definitively know whether a player will be suitable or not until you actually play a match.

Style of Play

Aggressive. I've had enough of tippy tappy hope you're happy football for the time being. I want a bit of edge and excitement. I'm not saying I want my players charging around like headless chickens getting themselves booked and sent off. Far from it. By "aggressive" I mean win the ball back quickly and use the ball constructively. Don't just stand off waiting for the opportune moment (that may never come) and then donk the ball in a vaguely sideways motion.

Let's have some


Now, whether West Ham are actually capable of that or not remains to be seen. If they are then great (looking at you Dmitri), if not then this becomes my long term development plan - and any recruitment or player development needs to be geared towards that.

So how do I start to define my style of play, as the last time I looked "Pizazz" wasn't an in-game attribute or tactical setting.

Club DNA

Leaving "Pizazz" to one side for a second, I intend to play in a fairly Aggressive manner. In defence I want my players to be proactive in closing down opposition players to force quick turn over of the ball. In attack I want them actively seeking space in dangerous areas to make themselves available for a pass. Again, I don't yet know for sure whether the West Ham squad are capable of doing this or not, so I need to lay some foundations - my club DNA - something I want most or even all of my players to have.

In terms of Attributes, this is how I'm defining things:

- They need Aggression to help give them the desire to move proactively around the pitch;

- Work Rate and Stamina to keep them doing it for 90 minutes;

- Decisions so they know when to do it;

- and First Touch to help them control the ball when they get there.

There will of course be the odd exception. Centre Backs and Goalkeepers don't need too much in the way of Aggression and Work Rate in the same way as a Central Midfielder may (for example) as they don't move around too much. But you get the idea.

Individual roles may get some further DNA refinements as well, once I actually set them, to help those players play in the style I want. Somebody is eventually going to need Flair in his DNA for example, to add that Pizazz.


For what I have in mind, I'm going to use two different formations. I don't yet know when exactly I'll use each one I set up, but setting up the two options now will save a lot of faffing around later and allow me to experiment in the relative safety of pre-season.

One formation is an aggressive formation (the 4-2-3-1 wide) by default. Four players stationed high up the pitch lends itself automatically to a high press.

The other formation (4-1-2-3 DM Wide) is less aggressive by nature, and thus should be stronger in defence, but I can still add some aggression to it.

Those are my basic formations, which I'll then (hopefully !) shape into how I want to be playing using the tactical settings. If it turns out my West Ham team are not yet capable of playing in my chosen manner, I can always take out some aggression until I improve my squad.

This is where it's important to be patient - you simply can't force players that are unsuitable for a certain play style to play in that manner, so sometimes you need a long term development plan.

These are my initial thoughts on the two formations and player roles / duties:


4-1-2-3 DM Wide

1) Sweeper Keeper (support) - I intend to play with a relatively high defensive line (more on that later, but fits in with my Aggressive style), so a Sweeper Keeper makes sense. Need to check if my keepers are any good at "Rushing Out" otherwise I may need to tweak this role to a regular Goalkeeper.

2) Right Back: Fullback (support) - In selecting this role and duty, I need to be aware of the roles ahead of him on his flank: a CM(attack) and a Winger(support). With a Winger ahead I don't need a Wingback role, and with a CM(attack) I don't want him running too far ahead and leaving the flank exposed. If I change the role of the Winger to, say, an Inside Forward (see below) I could consider changing this role to a Wingback.

Hopefully you can see how I'm not just focusing on a single role and hoping it will work. Everything needs to work with everything else and be balanced. This is very important.

3) Left Back: Wingback (support) - As above, I'm considering what is happening ahead of this player. A Raumdeuter is going to be sitting narrower, looking for runs inside, thus giving a Wingback more room to operate in. It also has an attack duty, and two attack duties on the same flank isn't always a good idea. I also have an Advanced Playmaker on this side of the midfield, which may not be all that great defensively. I may consider changing the Raumdeuter to an IF, but that won't affect the role selection here.

4) Centre Backs: Central Defender (defend) - Nothing fancy here. I do however want them to be comfortable on the ball without just mindlessly punting it forwards, but at the same time I don't need them to be taking the role of a pseudo-playmaker. The Central Defender role will cover this well, and no need for a stopper or cover duty.

5) Defensive Midfield: Defensive Midfielder (defend) - Kind of similar to my central defenders, just in the DM position. Comfortable on the ball, but no mindless punting. Also prepared to aggressively move to cut off attacks, but not overly so. I just plain don't like the Half Back role; the Anchor Man is a little too passive (no additional closing down by default); while the Ball Winning Midfielder is a little over the top and can run the risk of getting caught out of position too often.

NOTE - How do I know these things? Because I look at the Player Instructions that are set by default. When creating a tactic I wholeheartedly recommend everyone to read the PIs when selecting all roles and duties - it tells you a lot about how that role should play in matches. You can learn so much from this. Look at the differences between AM, DM and BWM:


6) MCL: Advanced Playmaker (support) - Now we're starting to get into the "Pizazz". I'm actually a little undecided here and a Deep Lying Playmaker may work better, however I'm prepared to experiment. Given the players ahead of my AP (a Raumdeuter and an F9), they will be looking to run the channels (read their PIs). So I want a player here who will look to make through balls (aka "More Risky Passes"). An Advanced Playmaker is set up to do that by default, whereas a DLP is not. I'm a little concerned here about defensive duties, but I plan (hope!) to cover that by my player selection - in this case, Mark Noble. Check his attributes (key attributes for an AP highlighted):


The guy has a phenomenal work rate with good aggression and stamina. He can also pass the ball and has complimentary PPMs. Perhaps not your first thought about what an Advanced Playmaker should look like, but I also want to get across the principle of adapting and being creative with player selection. You don't have to follow what the game tells you, think about what you want the player to do. In this case I want Noble to be a "creative terrier" on the pitch - pizazz in attack, relentless in defence.

7) MCR: Central Midfield (attack) - This is where I see Dmitri Payet playing. This could be a risk and backfire on me, so I have to watch how this plays out. What I want is a player getting in and around the box from midfield to both support attacks and be a goal threat. I'll also give him a PI to play More Risky Passes (aka through balls) as people ahead of him are mobile and messing around in channels. Payet has great attacking attributes and Flair, but he lacks drive and aggression, so goes against my club DNA. Whether I can support that type of player long term or not remains to be seen and (shock) I may end up selling him. We'll see.

8) AML: Raumdeuter - If you want to know what type of player makes a good Raumdeuter, look up Thomas Müller. He is the Raumdeuter. I want this player to be running the channels, using his Off the Ball movement and intelligence to get into pockets of space prior to shooting. I couple this with a False 9 striker who should help open this space for the Raumdeuter who then gets fed the ball by the Advanced Playmaker. That's the theory anyway. Whether I have the player to be able to handle this role or not I'm unsure (Enner Valencia looks ok but lacks some mental attributes) so I may end up changing this role to an Inside Forward until I have someone better. I'll see how it plays out.

9) AMR: Winger (support) - Variety in attack can be important. A Winger staying wide and making crosses gives me a nice alternative to all that channel running and through balls. It also gives me something else - helping to create space for my CM(attack) runner from deep. A Winger staying wide should pull the opposition Fullback wide, which would (hopefully) help to free up space for my CM(attack) to take advantage of. The support duty will help defensively with tracking back.

10) STC: False 9 - I want somebody who is going to be a goal threat; someone to create space for others; someone who isn't shy of dropping deep to help link attack with midfield; someone who can create chances for others. I'm starting with a False 9, but whether the likes of Carroll and Sakho are capable of performing this role remains to be seen. I may end up changing roles here.

4-2-3-1 Wide

NOTE - please ensure you have a quick read through of the 4-1-2-3 DM Wide description above before reading through this 4-2-3-1. Principles are discussed there which may not be repeated below but are still important to understand.

1) Sweeper Keeper (support) - As 4-1-2-3 DM Wide above.

2) Right Back: Wingback (attack) - Balance is a key word, and the aim here is to balance the right flank with this role and duty. MCR has a defend duty (see below) so can provide adequate cover if this Wingback is caught out of position high up the pitch. An Inside Forward is placed higher up the flank, so the Wingback should be able to provide good overlaps.

3) Left Back: Wingback (support) - With an attack duty player positioned high up this flank, giving this Wingback a support duty helps to maintain balance in addition to supporting runs when in possession.

4) Centre Backs: Central Defender (defend) - Nothing fancy here. I do however want them to be comfortable on the ball without just mindlessly punting it forwards, but at the same time I don't need them to be taking the role of a pseudo-playmaker. The Central Defender role will cover this well, and no need for a stopper or cover duty.

Note - with no player positioned in the DM position, it's important to make sure one or both central defenders don't get sucked into this area to close down opponents. That can lead to sudden gaps appearing behind in a very dangerous position. Something to watch out for during matches and make adjustments if needed.

5) MCL and MCR: Deep Lying Playmaker (defend) + Central Midfielder (defend) - I'll mention these two together as quite frankly they are the key, in my opinion, to the success or failure of this formation. Whilst it is perfectly feasible to not have two defend duty players in central midfield for this formation to do well, it becomes harder to balance properly and is just not necessary. With this formation, you don't need a runner from midfield as you already have 4 players stationed high up the pitch to take the lead in final third attacking play. They're already there, so let them get on with it. And don't forget one or both wingbacks will also be helping out.

So both roles given a defend duty, with one role as a creator, the other as a play breaker-upper (technical term ;)). Both should play a full part in protecting the central defence and provide cover for any wingbacks that happen to go walkabout. Club DNA will be super important for these players.

6) AML: Raumdeuter - Again, I want this player to be running the channels, using his Off the Ball movement and intelligence to get into pockets of space prior to shooting. I'll need to watch the interaction with the DLP and AMC (see below) to make sure passing techniques work (ie., through balls). Whether I have the player to be able to handle this role or not I'm unsure (Enner Valencia looks ok but lacks some mental attributes) so I may end up changing this role to an Inside Forward until I have someone better. I'll see how it plays out.

7) AMR: Inside Forward (support) - Variety in attack can be important. Whereas the Raumdeuter is looking to move into space to receive a pass, the IF will be running at defenders with the ball, using his dribbling skills and deft passing to move into dangerous areas. I'll be looking for good interplay between the IF, the AMC and the striker, so something to watch and tweak if needed. The support duty will help defensively with tracking back.

8) AMC: Attacking Midfielder (support) - My first thought here was to use the Advanced Playmaker role, however I want this player to not only provide good close support to the striker, Raumdeuter and IF, but also to provide a goal threat himself. The Advanced Playmaker role, whilst still a goal threat from this position, may be perhaps a little too support oriented, so changing to an attacking midfielder with perhaps a PI to increase risky passes (through balls) seems like a good compromise. I'm expecting big things from Payet in this position.

9) STC: Complete Forward (attack) - I'm a little undecided here, so to begin with I'm hedging my bets and going with the jack of all trades striker. I'm also unsure how my two main strikers (Carroll and Sakho) are going to work out, so tweaking may be the order of the day. Support and Attack duties are both options here and will play an important part in how the two wide attackers work out.

On the one hand having an attack duty striker can help to keep opposition defenders deep and so open up space in front of the defence for my AMC/L/R players to take advantage of. On the other hand, giving him a support duty can suck defenders higher leaving space behind them to exploit. On balance, and as I have a player in the AMC position, I start with the idea of pushing defenders deeper to open space in front of the defence where my players actually are. From that point of view, telling my AMC to increase through balls may be a bad idea, so I need to watch this interaction carefully.

Hopefully you can see my thought processes and understand that everything needs to balance as everything interacts with everything else. Sometimes just the smallest tweak (like taking out the more risky passes PI or changing a role) can make all the difference. Flinging roles without much thought at your formation rarely works out well.

As ever, taking a little time to read through the default Player Instructions and role/duty tooltips can really help improve your understanding of how roles are designed. It's well worth spending a little time doing that now rather than scratching your head later if something doesn't work out. The more you understand up front when creating a tactic will immeasurably help you later when trying to fix something.

That's plenty long enough for now. I'll post detail on the tactical settings I'll be using next.

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Tactical Settings


I won't write too much about mentality as there are other detailed guides out there (check the stickies at the top of the forum).

Suffice to say, Mentality essentially boils down to risk. In other words, how much risk you are prepared to let your team take on the pitch. Each Mentality change you select is merely a step change along the risk taken.

But what actually is "risk"? In summary, this is taken from the FAQs sticky:

Defensively, risk relates to how willing players are to make tackles, press the opposition, sit deep and make long clearances from dangerous situations. The lower the risk from the chosen mentality, the more likely players are to stand off the opposition, sitting deep and holding their shape. Defenders will also clear the ball long to relieve pressure. In more risky mentalities, the opposite is true - your defensive line will be set higher, players will close down more aggressively and look to play the ball out from the back.

When in possession, risk dictates how patient your build up play will be, how narrow your team will play and the rate at which they go about their business. Less risky mentalities will encourage your more advanced players to pass the ball at a slower tempo, making shorter passes to each other and playing without any great width. Overall this should result in fewer goal scoring opportunities, but of better quality. More risky mentalities are the opposite - players will move the ball around with greater urgency and length, playing wider to stretch the opposition. The number of shots may be greater, but can generally be of lesser quality.

You can visually see this in action - click on Team Instructions, select a mentality, then select a different mentality. Watch how different Team Instructions change simply by switching mentality. Take a look at how the Defensive and Attacking mentalities compare:



"Passing Directness" can be a little hard to see as defenders and attackers have their individual passing adjusted, but hopefully you get the idea.

Applying this to my Club

So, given that I've stated I want to play with an Aggressive style, and what we now know about mentality and risk, should I pick a Defensive or Counter mentality, or an Attacking or Control mentality? Or something slap bang in the middle (Standard)?

If you said Attacking or Control, take +1 internet :).

I'm actually going to start with Control. West Ham are not exactly the best team in the division (yet!) so going the whole hog and selecting Attacking would, I think, be over ambitious at this stage of the clubs' development. Once I start playing matches, I may even find that Control is too much so may possibly have to bring it down a notch to Standard, especially against the big clubs. We'll have to see. For now though, Control will be my starting point for both the tactics I'm developing.

Something else to remember - the two different formations have naturally different levels of aggression simply from the positioning of players. So whilst I say on occasion I may need to tone down the mentality, actually I may only need to change formation. Again, we'll have to see how it plays out, but something to bear in mind.

Team Shape

Team Shape seems to confuse a lot of people, but it's actually relatively straight forward.

What it all boils down to is creativity and space. Or, more precisely, creative freedom and vertical space. In other words:

The more Fluid the selected Team Shape is, more creative freedom is added to each of your players and the more compact your team will be from front to back.

The more Structured the selected Team Shape is, less creative freedom is added to each of your players and the more spread out they will be from front to back.

OK, so what the hell is "creative freedom"? Again, I'll borrow a passage from the FAQs sticky:

Creative Freedom affects how willing and by how much a player will deviate from their assigned task. With more Creative Freedom, a player can rely more on his own mental attributes (eg. decision making) to decide when to attempt something "outside of the box" which would more usually be dictated by your own tactical settings. You may see a player attempt more risky passes; dribble more; off the ball runs. This can lead to a loss of structure in your team but of course can lead to greater rewards.

So, for example, in my 4123DM formation, I have a Defensive Midfielder selected. If I now make my Team Shape "Very Structured" I can expect the gaps between him & the central defenders and him & the central midfielders to increase slightly. I can also expect him to very rarely deviate from the instructions of his assigned role (his PIs give you a starting point for that). The benefit of this is he should go about his business in an orderly fashion, remaining part of a collectively strong unit.

But if I select Very Fluid instead, those gaps are going to reduce a little and he'll start thinking outside of the box - so I'd better make sure the player is actually capable of doing that.

So what am I going to start West Ham with? It's tempting to go with Fluid, to allow my players to get creative, and eventually I may do that. However, I still want to retain some control myself and not let them completely off the leash just yet, so I'm going to start with Flexible for both tactics.

I'll also add this thought - if you have any doubt of what to do, select Flexible.

Team Instructions

Team Instructions are used to refine your style of play. If you've read the section above on Mentality, you'll already know that different mentalities have different Team Instructions set by default. So if you want to play with a high defensive line (for example) and have selected the Attacking mentality, then you already have a very high def line without needing to add in a TI to make it even higher. You can add it on if you really want such a high def line, just be aware of your starting point.

Of course there's nothing to stop you adding in a higher def line to the Defensive mentality if that's how you want to play. It all adds up to creating your own style.

NOTE - different Mentality starting points + the same TI do not end up with the same end result. Lets follow through that def line example: Defensive mentality + higher def line TI does not give you the same height of def line as Attacking mentality + higher def line. It'll actually give you a similar def line position as the default Standard mentality.

This is true for many settings. Think of it in these terms: you have 5 mentalities to choose from (excluding Contain and Overload) and with many TIs you also have 5 different settings. Each single step in TI change results in (roughly) where the default setting for what that TI would be in the next mentality. TI changes will also cap out.

To demonstrate:

Select Defensive mentality and look at Tempo. You can increase the default TI tempo instruction to Higher or Much Higher. In this example, Defensive mentality + Higher Tempo results in roughly the same default tempo setting as the Counter mentality. Likewise, Defensive + Much Higher tempo = roughly the same as the default Standard mentality tempo. But you can't go higher than this. You can't set a similar tempo that the Control or Attacking mentalities set by default from your starting point of the Defensive mentality.

This follows for other TIs as well, so always be conscious of your starting point and the maximum you can achieve from there.

I'll caveat that slightly as there are other settings in the game that can impact the end position of certain settings such as Passing Directness and some Player Instructions, but as a general rule of thumb you can follow this principle.

My Team Instructions

I'm going to maintain some commonality between both tactics to compliment my chosen aggressive style of play. There will also be a subtle difference between them.

Common Team Instructions

1) Shorter Passing - With the Control mentality, team width (when in possession) is pretty wide by default. Tempo is also quite fast and it allows my more attacking players to be quite direct with their passing. Whilst this can lead to that "pizazz" I mentioned earlier, it can also be quite wasteful (that's the risk element). To counteract this risk a little, I'll use this TI which will bring my players a little closer together and slow the tempo down a bit. Nothing too drastic, just a little.

2) Roam from Positions - This should encourage my players to find pockets of space to be available for a pass they may not otherwise be available for. This can help possession and building attacks. The downside is if they roam too much they'll get caught out of position, so I need to be aware of this when watching matches.

3) Dribble Less - I want the players passing and moving, not dribbling the ball. Certain roles that set high dribbling by default (eg., Inside Forward) will continue doing so, but the last thing I want is my DM trying to dribble his way out of trouble.

Unique Team Instructions: 4-1-2-3

Push Higher Up - As we know, the Control mentality sets a pretty high defensive line by default. However, having someone positioned in the DM position will the push the def line a little lower than normal. This TI pushes the def line back up to roughly where it was.

Unique Team Instructions: 4-2-3-1

Close Down Much More - With an aggressive formation I'm happy to increase the amount of default closing down which the Control mentality sets by default (which is quite a lot). This may be a step too far as too much closing down can result in the team losing shape, so I'll need to watch this. Central defenders especially can be prone to mistakes with too much closing down set.

That's essentially it for Tactical Settings. What I'm attempting to demonstrate here is I really just have one way of playing - one system if you like - but two ways of playing it. The two tactics are essentially the same, just subtle variations between the two of them.

Player Instructions

Use Player Instructions to put the icing on the cake. Your final flourish as it were.

I'm not setting many:

Sweeper Keeper - Distribute to Centre Backs; Roll it Out; Slow Pace Down. Keepers can lose silly amounts of possession by simply kicking the ball long all the time, so these TIs are designed to address that issue.

Support Duty Fullbacks and Wingbacks - Cross Less Often. My system is based on pass and move, not ping it into the box and hope someone gets on the end of it. I want my fullbacks and wingbacks supporting possession by offering a wide passing option, then passing it on to somebody else (hopefully) in a more dangerous position. Asking them to cross less should help that.

Central Midfielder (attack) - More Risky Passes. To encourage through balls in keeping with my pizazz and player movement.

Attacking Midfielder (support) - More Risky Passes. Same as above.

Set Pieces


I won't go through the minute detail of everything I set up, but I'll mention some general principles I follow:

- Have a man on each post when defending corners.

- Leave someone forward when defending corners and freekicks.

- Have someone disrupt the wall when taking free kicks.

- Have two players stay back when taking corners and free kicks.

- Have a player lurk outside the area.

- Have someone challenge the keeper, and someone else attacking the near post when taking corners.

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Sorting out the Squads

Senior Squad

For me, it's important to sort out the squad status of all of my senior squad players at the start of the season.

If I leave it for a few months I run the risk of players moaning about having their status reduced. It may still happen now, but from what I've seen previously it's less likely to happen.

Here's the senior squad sorted by squad status. I've picked my "best" starting eleven, so they should be the ones who'll play the most:


That's an awful lot of players with First Team status. Which means that's an awful lot of players who will expect to play in a large majority of games, and if they don't they'll come moaning to me. Bless.

My personal preference is not to have more than a couple of "Key Players", with 5 or 6 given a status of "First Team". It'll save my wage bill as well.

Here are the changes I've made:


Pretty harsh, and some of the choices may surprise you. But then I am supposed to be in charge :brock:. My reasoning is:

- I don't like having loanees with a squad status higher than Rotation. Song, Lanzini and Jenks may all get starting places in the team, but I'd rather manage expectations of my actual players first,before pandering to someone who'll leave the club soon anyway.

- The more players you have as Backup or Rotation, the less likely they are to moan about lack of playing time.

- It gives me an idea of which players fall outside of my new wage structure.

- It allows me to see who I can loan out or get rid of. Emenike is superfluous to my needs and will have his loan terminated. Henry will be loaned out when the game allows (I cancelled first transfer window moves if you remember).

Under 21s


I sort my Youth teams by Potential.

Now, you have to take star ratings with a bit of a pinch of salt. They can be misleading so treat them as a guideline only. Star ratings are reliant on how well your Assistant Manager knows your squads and how well they can judge player potential. We've already met my Assistant Manager, and know he's pretty rubbish.

So, some decent prospects to keep an eye on, although most are away on loan. I may recall Reece Burke (if I can) as I don't like having my main hot prospects away from the club - I lose all development control if they are away on loan.

You'll notice that I also have Personality and Determination listed. I use this to help decide on my Tutoring targets (more on that later).

Under 18s


3 or 4 decent looking prospects there (pinch of salt at the ready).

One or two of these were in the U21s squad for some reason, so I moved them back to the U18s. Again, try and do this at the start of the season as it can upset players.

I moved them back to the U18s as I like to have a set progression without moving players into higher squads too quickly (unless I have a real superstar on my hands).

I'm again looking at Tutoring targets but also any hot prospects still on Youth contracts (noted with a "YTH" symbol). Anyone I want to develop I'll look to sign immediately onto a fulltime professional contract - if I don't I'll run the risk of another club coming in under the radar and signing them from under my nose.

Now that I've started looking at my Youth squads, what I'll do next is a case study of how I set up my development program for one of my hot prospects.

Youth Development Case Study

Rather than just speak in general terms of methods to go about developing young players, I thought it might be more interesting to do a case study of taking one player and looking at my thought process of starting him off on the long road to stardom (hopefully).

Now it is of course perfectly feasible to just go back to your Staff Responsibilities at this point and let one of your staff deal with training and/or player development. If that side of the game doesn't interest you, then not a problem - do the things that you find fun and forget the rest. And you know what? Your players will still turn out to be alright.

For me though, "alright" isn't quite good enough, so I take charge of things.

So, onto the player I've chosen for this study - Joe Powell, who is just 16 years old and in the U18s squad. Lets take a detailed look at him:



Personal Information


Coach Report


So what am I looking for here to help me decide how to kick start his development program? Several things:

1) Potential. According to my coach report, he has loads of potential. However it's important to understand the star ratings are (i) only as good as the coach's own judging ability and (ii) is only a comparison against other similar players at my club. So he may not be quite as good as initial impressions, but it's a starting point.

2) Pros and Cons. Always useful to have a quick read though of your coach opinions, but again do not rely on it. You'll notice at the top you can select which coach you want to see the report from, and they will differ. I've selected the report from my coach with the best judging ability, so it should be at least ok.

The Cons I'm not paying too much attention to here as the kid is only 16 and things like the mentioned stamina and athleticism issues will improve naturally over time. I'll keep an eye on how these related attributes develop and change his regime if needed.

3) Attributes and Personality. If Joe is going to have a long term future at my club, he needs to fit in with my DNA (Aggression, Work Rate, Stamina, Decisions, First Touch). Looking at his attributes, Aggression worries me (it's just 5). Aggression cannot be specifically trained, so to increase this I'm going to have to get creative with which role I train him in, as not many roles will look to train Aggression as part of their plan. I'll also have to cross my fingers a bit and hope it improves naturally over time.

Looking at his personal information, he has a personality of "Fairly Ambitious" and a Media Handling Style of "Media Friendly".

(If you want a very detailed explanation of how to read these traits, check out this thread http://community.sigames.com/showthread.php/307808-The-Ultimate-Personality-Media-Handling-Guide found in the stickies at the top).

If any player is going to stand a chance of reaching their potential, they need the right personality traits. To train well, they need high level of Professionalism and (to a lesser extent) Ambition. Joe's personality leads me to believe he has decent levels of Ambition, but he needs a boost of Professionalism. As he is "Media Friendly", he should also be fairly uncontroversial and have a decent temperament so I shouldn't worry too much about him bitching about stuff.

So, I need to change his personality to improve the chances of him reaching his potential, and the only way I can do that is to Tutor him. And to do that, I need to find a senior player who does have the right qualities which he'll (hopefully) pass on to Joe.

NOTE - Determination will also be passed on during Tutoring. This is an important attribute when playing matches, so whilst selecting a Tutor for Joe, not only does the Tutor need a good personality, but also decent levels of Determination.

The player I therefore select as my Tutor for Joe is my club captain, Mark Noble. Mark has a great personality (Model Professional) and decent levels of Determination (15). In my opinion he's a great role model for Joe and I'll get the two of them working together straight away.


Joe's Training Plan

I need to decide where I ultimately see Joe fitting into my team.

As he's just 16, he's young enough for me to start training him into any position and role I want to. Given some of his attributes and standing 187cm tall, he might make a decent central defender for example. However, he's already proficient in the MC and AMC positions, and as I see my Central Midfielder (attack) in my 4123DM tactic also doubling up as my Attacking Midfielder (support) in my 4231 tactic, I'll keep him training in these positions.

Onto attribute development. As already mentioned, Aggression needs improving but can be hard to improve, so I go to Joe's Training screen and start flicking through different roles to see which roles train which attributes. And I come across two possibles (note the highlighted attributes):



Here's the thing to remember - just because you select a certain role in Training, doesn't mean to say that's how you'll play the player in your team. Use the roles in Training to simply train the attributes that you want the player to develop.

So, clearly I don't have room in my tactics for a Shadow Striker or a Ball Winning Midfielder, but look at the attributes that will be trained and think about the roles that Joe will carry out in my team. As a CM(a) / AM(s), I want him being a creative goal threat from deep, willing to get up and down the pitch and help out in both attack and defence.

So going by those two Training roles, what if I could somehow combine them? The Shadow Striker training is going to help him move around aggressively in attack, and the BWM Training role will help his defensive work. That sounds perfect to me. To do this, I'll set him on a 6 month rotation - for 6 months he'll train as a BWM, for the other 6 he'll train as a Shadow Striker. I can even use the in game Notes function to send me a reminder every 6 months to swap things around so I don't have to rely on remembering.

For an "Additional Focus", I'll set this to First Touch. Part of my DNA and an area that needs a boost.

And what about a PPM or two? For now I'm going to hold fire on that until I've watched my tactics play out a bit, which should help me decide what (if anything) may be useful.

That covers this case study here, which I hope you found interesting. I wanted to show how it's possible to apply a little creative thinking to training plans without resorting to the "I've got a DLP so I'm going to train him as a DLP" mindset.

There are of course other methods of setting up training plans, and if you really want to maximise the possibilities you should have a read of Rashidi's blog https://www.addictedtofm.com/.

I'm going to finish off my individual training plans and once that is complete I may actually (finally!) be ready to hit that Continue button for the first. Phew ;).

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In-Season Training

As noted above, pre-season training is all about player morale, match fitness, blending and tactical familiarity.

Once the above is completed (usually done by the first league match of the season, sometimes a little longer), I refocus "in-season" training to concentrate on player development.

Individual training plans play a full part in this, although I've already set this up during pre-season. This leaves General Training to take into account.

Note - if this isn't your cup of tea, you can always head into Staff Responsibilities and task one of your team to take care of it.

This is noted in the FAQs sticky at the top of this section, but it's worth reiterating here - different General Training selections will develop different player attributes, and this will affect everyone in your team. The areas affected are:

Fitness - all physical attributes + Work Rate.

Tactical - Anticipation, Composure, Decisions, Concentration, Teamwork.

Ball Control - Dribbling, First Touch, Heading, Technique, Flair.

Defending - Marking, Tackling, Positioning.

Attacking - Crossing, Finishing, Long Shots, Passing, Off the Ball, Vision.

Balanced - all of the above

So you can see that if, for example, you decide you want to set "Defending" as your General Training, everyone in your team will start working on Marking, Tackling and Positioning. Even your Strikers.

Personally I usually focus my General Training on something a bit more neutral that I don't mind everyone training. Therefore I'll primarily look at Tactical, sometimes Ball Control and occasionally Fitness. If you really want to min/max this, you should check out Rashidi's blog.

Remember, if you are going to change Training around during the season, leave each Training area in place for at least 3 months at a time in order for it to have any kind of meaningful impact.

This is how my in-season General Training looks:


You can see that I have:

- Set Tactical Training at a Medium intensity. Tactical will remain as the set Training for 6 months, after which I'll change to Ball Control until the next pre-season starts. Originally I set a High intensity but some players were picking up small injuries so I knocked it back to Medium.

- Players are allowed a day's rest after each match to help them recover properly and regain Condition in time for the next match.

- I have reduced the amount of Match Training to allow more time on General Training (and thus improving player attributes). You can reduce this to zero if you want to fully focus 100% on developing attributes, but here I use a little RP element and spend a little time preparing for matches.

- And as you can see, I use Defensive Positioning as my Match Preparation. Match Preparation provides a small, temporary boost to the area being worked on. It's perfectly plausible to not work on match prep and focus 100% on General Training, however be aware that not setting any match prep can reduce Tactical Familiarity.

Youth Teams

In England, the U21s squad share facilities with the senior squad, so everything is already taken care of.

For the U18s squad, I set things up in exactly the same way except I have Teamwork set for match preparation. Again that's just a small RP element (they're young so get them working together kind of thing).

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Thought I'd start something that aims to bring everything together as an overall club "strategy".

This is being written "live" as I play through a game, so at each step you can should be able to see my thought process and hopefully understand some principles and concepts.

There's quite a lot of info, so save it for bedtime reading to help cure insomnia ;).

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Excellent thread and great idea.

I have actually just started a save with West Ham United a couple of days ago, primarily to be able to use Payet :)

Secondly, I want to get a Target Man to work and this team seems filled with those.

Interesting to see your approach to a new save. I already learned something new. I actually never looked at the personality of my HOYD - just at the attributes. Something to keep in mind.

I also overlooked the squad gelling part (usually just leave it at balanced) and then set up individual training.

I terminated Alex Song's loan because of wages and because of the long term injury. I am playing with a 4-3-3 (DM) and need more players in midfield. For that I tried to free up some wage budget. I was unable to get anyone in on loan but was able to bring in some "oldies" as free agents. Now from your squad view I realized he has home grown status, so that was perhaps a rash decision to terminate his loan.

I will keep following this thread and its development.

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second option you can try involves relying on the game to set things up for you. Go to your Squad screen and from the tabs at the top select Squad Depth > Best XI:


Then simply select a formation from the drop down box highlighted (I've selected 4-2-3-1) and have your Assistant Manager select player roles/duties and the players themselves. And straight away you have another starting point. Now it doesn't select tactical settings for you, and neither can you just switch to your Tactics screen and see this newly created formation appear there, so you'll need to take some notes. But you've now created something that at least makes some sense and gives you a platform to build on.

It'll never replace your own time spent studying your team and getting to know your strengths and weaknesses, but not everyone finds that fun.

Had no idea this was even an option! Thanks mate

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Herne79 - Brilliant idea and well put together so far. Something like this has been needed for a long time. Cleon, Rashidi and HoG et-al's stuff is fabulous but this - aimed at the very beginner - is just what is needed here. A good prequel to the more in depth stuff.

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Selecting your favourite formation when creating your manager profile, gives that formation a familiaity boost from what I have noticed, so if you know what formation you want to use then it's well worth having it as your favourite.

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Herne you have no idea how much this helps beginners and over-thinkers (like me)! You know exactly how we feel, and our struggle, because you were one of us! You're like the player who used to be a noob and struggled like all of us here but have gotten the experience and knowledge through perserverence and patience, and have now become an expert, and now came back to help. It's like watching that kid next door who has struggled with life just as much as everyone else in the neighbourhood, rise through the youth team and reserve team ranks and score that all important goal to win a derby to gv back to the community he came from. Lol. Sorry, got all emotional here.

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Excellent thread. Love the role playing bit, making it a bit harder and fun really getting to see how others just play the game.

I think West Ham are 1st for finishing in the team comparison because Sakho has 17 finishing and they dont have many strikers. Thus they have a high average...I see the joke though.

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Brilliant thread. Interesting that this is exactly how I start my saves and recently had a save with west ham using a very similar set up to your 4231 be watching how you develop your team from here as we will make different choices.

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This is pretty neat.

I do the same thing in a different order. I sort out the players, U21s and U18's first and then do the staff. (Which is what I'm doing at the moment funny enough, with an Excel sheet up next to FM16 in windowed mode!) ;)

Already planning who's in the team, who's getting trained for the future and who is off in the selling bin.

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Thanks Herne this is brilliant stuff. Cleon, Rashidi and HOG stuff is really good but this is really aimed at the FMers who just want to learn how to play the game. I wish we had more guides like this. Keep up the good work mate

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This is pretty neat.

I do the same thing in a different order. I sort out the players, U21s and U18's first and then do the staff. (Which is what I'm doing at the moment funny enough, with an Excel sheet up next to FM16 in windowed mode!) ;)

Already planning who's in the team, who's getting trained for the future and who is off in the selling bin.

Could you pose a screenshot of your excel sheet, for inspiration? :) Would be nice to see how you are planning for the future.

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Thanks for this. It was an amazing read and i'm looking forward for more.

Interested to see how will F9 role behave. I've always wanted to incorporate that role in my team but i find the player shoot a lot from long distance and run too much with the ball for my liking. I always end up changing for DLF.

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Excellent update. Enjoyed the youth development case study very much as this is an area I've been looking to focus on. the BWM training is excellent for the exact reasons you have pointed out and I have used it well on my CBs in the past.

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When you changed the squad status , did you renegotiate the contracts or kept the salaries the same and might change them in the future?

I haven't negotiated any contracts yet, just changed the squad status.

Unless a player is coming towards the end of his career, it's unlikely a player would take a wage cut for me to keep him within my wage structure, so I'll probably need to sell at some point.

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herne79, what is your save-to-save default preference in matter of DB creation (number of countries/leagues/size/custom tuning)? Do you add/remove some leagues across a save?

I often played with 5-6 top countries and I intend to enlarge new game but I'm afraid off a significant slowdown in the processing and crash dumps.

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herne79, what is your save-to-save default preference in matter of DB creation (number of countries/leagues/size/custom tuning)? Do you add/remove some leagues across a save?

I often played with 5-6 top countries and I intend to enlarge new game but I'm afraid off a significant slowdown in the processing and crash dumps.

I usually play with the top major European leagues + the lower leagues of whichever country I am managing in, along with Argentina and Brazil and a large database. Sometimes I'll also add more South / Central / North American countries as well. I tend not to add or remove leagues during a save.

I'm afraid I have no idea about crash dumps so can't advise, although you can always raise issues in the tech forums.

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Hi Herne,

I try to do it like you and normal ist works when you do it in a structured way. But I allway come in problems when my Team is on a bad run. If I lost 2-3 games in a row it is very difficult to turn around. Sometimes you get a tough playing schedule and this happens. What so you recommend in this situation?

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Hi Herne,

I try to do it like you and normal ist works when you do it in a structured way. But I allway come in problems when my Team is on a bad run. If I lost 2-3 games in a row it is very difficult to turn around. Sometimes you get a tough playing schedule and this happens. What so you recommend in this situation?

That's very difficult to answer without knowing what you are doing or how you are playing.

The best thing I can advise at the moment is that if you are having serious issues then start a new thread, detail your system and the problems you are having.

I or someone else may then be able to give you some specific ideas that relate to your tactic.

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Mini Update

Just a quick update on some outstanding issues that I mentioned earlier.

Youth Contracts Negotiated

All Youth players identified as high potential have agreed new professional contracts. This will at least prevent rival clubs making an approach to sign them.

Contracts Extended

Steve Potts' (U21s Manager) was due to expire at the end of the season. He agreed a new contract with no salary increase.

Joey O'Briens' (senior squad player) was also due to expire. I considered letting him go, but he is a decent enough backup player and has a good personality (Resolute) and Determination, so happy to keep him on and use him in the odd game and as a Tutor. He accepted a small pay cut as well :).

Player Training Plans Sorted

All players have had individual training plans put in place. Those that will be on a rotation plan (such as Joe Powell - see above) have had reminder notes added so the game will now tell me when to change their plan, so I don't need to remember (which I wouldn't).

All Tutoring now started for young players.

Staff Recruited

All identified staff have been recruited. Coach training schedule has been updated accordingly.

New available staff to recruit have already become apparent thanks to bringing in staff of various nationalities. For example - remember above where I could originally only see one available scout in South America? After recruiting Ayala (Argentinian), this is how South American available scouts looks to me now:


Scouting Network Established

I now have 7 scouts employed from around the world, plus my Chief Scout. Because I have a very limited knowledge of players at present, I have set up individual scouting assignments for each to scout their own home region (not just their home country). I have not selected any particular player criteria yet (no age limits or star ratings for example) simply because I want to start to get some generalised views on players and countries, just to get on overview or feel for what is out there.

Once I start to build up knowledge I can begin to target in a more specific way. I'm just trying to build up a general knowledge at the moment. This is where my scouts currently are, and you can see they have already started sending me plenty of reports:


The downside to this of course is that I have no control over which country the scout visits. Perhaps the beer is cold in Luxembourg...

Playing Matches

I've played a couple of matches. Nothing too onerous yet, although a 19-0 aggregate win over Lusitans was quite nice and rather better than their 3-1 agg win in real life :rolleyes:. I'll do a proper tactical analysis once I've played more matches.

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First League Game of the Season

Sometimes you need to accept that the players you have available for selection just aren't cut out for how you want to play. And this is how things turned out for my first league match of the season against Everton.

Now I am still experimenting with one or two positions and players. My striker (for example) in the 4123DM formation is set as an F9 - an F9 has the following PIs set by default:


So Ideally I want a player here who can pass the ball, dribble a bit and has good off the ball movement. My two strikers (Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho) are not exactly overly burdened with related attributes. Perhaps I should try Payet there...

However, for this first match I don't have the luxury of choice. Whilst I've had a good pre-season (comfortably getting through the Europa League preliminaries), I've also lost 3 of my wide men to injury - Valencia (Thigh Strain), Antonio (Twisted Ankle) and Moses (Shin Splints). This leaves me with a choice between Payet, Lanzini and Byram to play at AML/R.

I could play all 3 if I choose to go with my 4231 formation, but that leaves me short on options if i need to make a substitution. So I'm going to play 4123DM which may also help me against Everton's dangerous (from past experience) 4231 line up.

But - and here's the adapting I need to consider - I have a Raumdeuter selected at AML in this formation, and Payet, Lanzini nor Byram are really cut out for that. So I make a small tweak to change the Raumdeuter to an IF and go with this line up:


It's only a small tweak, but sometimes this is the kind of thing we can do as managers that can make the difference between succeeding and failing. I could have just started Payet as a Raumdeuter, but if a simple change of role is going to be more suited to his attributes & PPMs and the change won't have a major impact on how the team plays, then I'm quite happy to play to someone's strengths in this manner.

So the match. The match itself was a game of two halves (to coin a phrase). We came in at the break somehow losing 1-0, thanks to a moment of madness from my centre back Winston Reid. Take a look at this little sequence of events:

1) Coleman on the ball, makes a decent pass to Lukaku. Reid is covering Lukaku, Tomkins and Jenkinson also well positioned and I have runners tracking back.


2) Lennon has got ahead of Cresswell to receive a pass from Lukaku. I'm still pretty well covered elsewhere, but Everton also have runners advancing.


3) And now this is where Reid has brain failure. Lennon has received the ball but Reid has followed the dotted blue line and decided it's much better to double team Lennon than protect the centre of the penalty box where Everton now have 2 players completely unmarked. Idiot. So yeh, guess what Lennon does - passes the ball to two unmarked players.


4) The inevitable happens. McCarthy says "after you Romelu" who needs no second invitation to score. Reid of course is nowhere to be found and about to incur the wrath of his Manager.


Now on the face of it, this is bad. And it is, it's very poor play from a player who should know better and he's cost us a goal. This in itself would be enough for some people to start writing bug reports, complaints and crying about the state of the game. Barely a week goes by without that type of rubbish on the forums.

But, and this is a Kardashian sized but, you have to look at the bigger picture. If this was typical behaviour by my players, I'd be in deep doodoo and need to make changes. But it isn't. It's an aberration. A one off. Even if I wasn't watching the match (which I am) I could tell simply by looking at how many shots Everton have had.

First half shots - Everton on the left:


So we're doing alright. Apart from losing :lol:.

One other thing here as well. Many people struggle to watch matches and see what is happening. I can completely understand this as I was in exactly the same position not so long ago. But here's the thing - I haven't taken that sequence of screenshots that led to Everton's goal "live". I've used Pause and Rewind. I've changed camera angles. I've played the sequence over and over again watching different players and their movement until I know what has happened. I don't know why Reid suddenly turned into a douche, but I do know he did and that's what caused the goal.

That's how I started to learn how to watch matches - just selecting small chunks of play and watching them over and over. Do that often enough and eventually you'll start to pick up on such patterns of play during live sequences. Unfortunately there is no shortcut here, it requires patience.

Anyway, I'm in at half time 1-0 down and I've got the hump. And this is where part of my manager's profile that I set up back at the start of the save kicks in again. I'm not an arm around the shoulder you've just been unlucky type. I have a rant and tell my players they need to show me something better. I get a positive "green" reaction from everyone.

And they do show me something better. We go 4-1 up before Lukaku grabs his second of the match and it finishes 4-2. Lanzini at CM(a) is my best player scoring a goal and grabbing an assist (gives me something to think about for future matches) and Payet also plays well in the Inside Forward adapted role. Byram scores a total fluke on his debut from the touchline, with Sakho (who limped off) and Carroll scoring the other 2. I'll quickly show you Carroll's goal as it is a great example of the CM(a) PI "More Risky Passes" (ie., more through balls):

A 6 v 2 situation, Lanzini makes a great pass which Carroll latches onto and scores. Great through ball. Given that Sakho also scored in this match, the F9 experiment paid off on this occasion - they were also heavily involved with support play as well.


All in all a good start to the season, and I'll need to play out a few more matches to make sure the tactical systems are sound, but I'm happy with the foundation so far and pleased with the small adaptation.

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Great thread. Almost made me back to FM16. I really like how you make your decisions seem so simple yet so logical.

However, I'm having to much fun with the Sacchi tactic on fm13. I use already some concepts here described regarding the staff selection, training, etc. It's quite nice to build a DNA.

Also its nice to see that old thread with your contributions as well and then see you where you got. Keep up the good work!

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In-Season Training Plans now updated in post #10.

Note - I've just reached 1st Jan 2016 in game and will be posting a fairly hefty update soon, probably in two parts. This will include such things as:

- Recruitment issues

- Tutoring and Training

- Joe Powell progress update

- Player happiness

- Transfer window and unsettled players

- Tactical rethink and update

- Facilities review

Hopefully it won't bore you too much ;).

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